From the ACLU–Protesters take note of limitations

Today floating around in the chat groups online seems to be some suggestions we should protest in front of the judge’s homes.

Personally, I think if you want to protest against judges you think are crooked or make the wrong decisions contrary to law, the best place is right outside the courthouse or online under the judge’s names and tag their posts with your specific complaints.

But just so everyone knows, apparently Illinois has decided it’s necessary to tailor and regulate the First Amendment right to protest.

From the ACLU:

III. C. Targeted sidewalk protests

Protesters often seek to demonstrate on sidewalks abutting a building that contains an audience that would prefer not to hear the protesters’ message. For example, a labor union might picket a worksite that uses allegedly unfair labor practices, or a citizen group might distribute leaflets critical of an elected official in front of that official’s office. Courts have held that the First Amendment protects sidewalk protests targeted at courts, health care facilities, schools, and churches. While a Chicago ordinance prohibits certain protests targeted at churches, the City in 2011 announced it would not be enforcing the policy.

The First Amendment has been interpreted to not protect sidewalk protests targeted at particular homes. An Illinois statute prohibits such targeted residential picketing. However, the First Amendment does protect marches through residential areas that don’t target a particular home.

Further, an Illinois statute prohibits fighting words within 300 feet and 30 minutes of a funeral. Police have enforced this statute against the inflammatory signs of the Westboro Baptist Church (displaying messages such as “thank God for IEDs”) on sidewalks across the street from military funerals. This is not a proper application of the fighting words doctrine, given the unlikelihood of fisticuffs between people across the street from each other. Police probably would not enforce this statute against less inflammatory funeral protests.

Within 50 feet of the entry of a health care facility, a Chicago ordinance bars protesters from approaching within eight feet of another person for the purpose of passing a leaflet, displaying a sign, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling. This ordinance is modeled on a Colorado statute that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. These laws typically are enacted in response to anti-abortion protesters, but they limit all manner of messages and messengers near health care facilities. These laws make it difficult to distribute leaflets, and are unnecessary in light of other laws that prohibit blockades, harassment, and the like. These laws do not impact the many forms of protest that do not involve approaching other persons, such as signs, speeches, and press conferences.

I’m not sure an outside the home protest would work.  Most people care more about their email friends from 3,000 miles around the globe than their next door neighbors and those on facebook than anything else nowadays, but you never know what people are thinking.


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